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Science: Recently Discovered Habitable World May Not Exist

Two weeks ago, U.S.-based astronomers announced  the discovery of the first Goldilocks planet circling another star: just the right size and just the right temperature to harbor alien life. But yesterday at an exoplanet meeting in Turin, Italy, Switzerland-based astronomers announced that they could find no trace of the prized planet in their observations of the same planetary system.

All the excitement has been over the subtlest of wiggles in the motion of the star Gliese 581 that lies just 20 light-years from the sun in the direction of the constellation Libra. A consortium of institutions led by the Observatory of Geneva in Switzerland had already discovered four planets circling Gliese 581 by sorting out the subtle motions of the star that are induced by the gravitational tugs of any orbiting planets...

But at this week's Astrophysics of Planetary Systems meeting, astronomer Francesco Pepe of the Geneva Observatory and the Swiss group reported that he and his colleagues could find no reliable sign of a fifth planet in Gliese 581's habitable zone.

by Magnifico on Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 12:19:56 PM EST

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